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The Church, the World,
& What to Do about it...

F. Earle Fox
Good Shepherd Anglican Church
Mesa, AZ  June 30, 2013

No Audio Version

Given the reason for my being here (to assess with each other as to whether I should be your new prist, and given the recent betrayal by the Supreme Court, I would like to tell you how I see the Church of today and how I see the world of today, the conversion of which to the Lord Jesus Christ is the task of the Church. I would like to do that in the context of our Epistle from I Peter and our Gospel from St. Luke.

Peter tells us to be of one mind, have a mutual compassion for each other, to love each other as brothers and sisters, not to return evil for evil but to bless instead – so that we might inherit a blessing. If we suffer for righteousness, “happy are you” Peter says. “Fear not their terror, but sanctify God in your hearts

Is that an accurate picture of Western Christendom? Is that how we Christians normally behave?

And then in the Gospel, after preaching from Peter’s fishing boat, Jesus tells Peter to go back out and cast his nets again. Peter objects that they have tried all night and caught nothing. But (you can almost hear the exasperation) OK, if you say so... He and his partners come back with two boats loaded with fish. Peter and the rest are frightened and he says, “Depart from me for I am a sinner.” Perhaps he does not want his own unworthiness to taint Jesus. If so, Jesus is not worried about being tainted, and replies. “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.” And they forsook all and followed Him.

The Gospel is about Peter and his decision to follow Jesus, the Epistle is by Peter, written long after his decision to follow related in the Gospel. Peter had been transformed into a brave and powerful witness for Jesus, for which he paid with his life – as did many other Christians. Would that be an accurate description of contemporary Christians?

 

Keep these thoughts in mind as we look at our own circumstances in the 21st century AD. What is the state of our world? And what is the state of the Church? How do we compare with the first century AD when Christians first went out to convert the known world to Jesus Christ?

During the first century AD, the birth of the Church led, for the first time in recorded history, to the conquering of not just any empire, but the greatest empire to that time – by persons who never raised a sword, who loved their enemies, and who were willing to die to convert the then almost wholly pagan world. There were no Christians yet at all, but apparently about 10% of the Roman Empire was already either Jewish, or were God fearers, pagans who honored and respected Judaism, but had not become Jews by circumcision. That 10% was an amazing feat in itself – accomplished also without the sword, only persuasion, moral example, and a believable Deity.

By 300 years from Jesus resurrection, Christianity had become the dominant religion in Rome, favored by Emperor Constantine. There were secular people who believed that deities did not exist. But there was no rampant secularism until after the Reformation when Christianity began to wane in the West. The new secularism thought it could maintain the gift of science and good government which Christians had established. But in our present world, both science and government are self-destructing because so few Christians have known how to deal with the aggressive, new modern secularism.

That was because the Church did not know how to deal with the new gift which God had raised up beginning during the late Middle Ages – namely the rise of science. Science was a new and more accurate way of discovering things about life, whether or not this or that belief was true.

So, what was the problem? Many Christians, especially those in leadership, began to fear, for example – if the Bible were tested and examined with scientific methods, what if it were proven to be false?

Now we have to understand that science as we know it in the West could have started only under the Biblical worldview, with a creator God who was sovereign over all things. It never happened in the pagan world. The purpose of science was to become better seekers after truth and better explainers of truth. But Christians acted like the Hebrews when they were told to enter Canaan after leaving Egypt. The scouts who returned from looking at the promised land said, “No, they are too strong for us! There are giants in the land!” Likewise, Christians were afraid that truth-seeking with science would prove them wrong. “There are giants in the land!”

We must understand also that the Bible treats reason with the greatest respect, not with contempt or fear. God says, “Come, let us reason together.” It is we, not God, who fail to show up for the discussion. God holds the reasonable high ground and is inviting us to join Him there. The gift of science was part of His equipment for us to do just that.

What people really feared was not that the Bible would be disproven, but rather that their view of the Bible might be disproven.

So Christians gave science away to the secular people. “We have our revelation, you can keep your reason and your science.” That was a fatal error. We began to be seen (surprise! surprise!) as “unreasonable”. And we gave God the same reputation. He could hardly have appreciated that.

There are other reasons also, but this opposing of revelation to reason was the worst mistake the Church ever made. It sealed the fate of the Church for the next several centuries, especially the 18- and 1900’s. Christians were rightly run from the public arena, so that today, you hardly hear a Christian voice in politics, education, welfare, commerce, or any other place outside church walls. We have given the secular, and now pagan, people an open field down which to march toward control of America and indeed the whole of Western society. It is mostly our own fault that we are losing Christmas creches in public places, and that the homosexual agenda is winning and abortion has not been stopped.

In the economy of God, reason and revelation are wedded, not at odds. Neither one will survive without the other. Reason is today collapsing in the public arena, it is collapsing in education, of all places, – because it ignores the Word of God, revelation, which teaches us why God created the world, and how to run it successfully. It is unreasonable to reject revelation.

And likewise, revelation needs reason. Are we to read revelation unreasonably? That is silly and an insult to God. In God, reason and revelation are eternally wedded.

The Sword of the Spirit is said to have two edges. I take those two edges to be revelation and reason welded back to back. That makes an invincible weapon. No wonder Satan launched a plan to turn the two edges against each other – reason and revelation made to be opposed to each other.

That is beginning to change. Christians are waking up to our terrible failure to explain our faith in the public arena for the last two centuries.

But those two centuries of failure leave us far behind. The forces of darkness, evil, and deliberate confusion have taken over in the public arena in America and in every Western nation which once had a Christian foundation – as in the Court decision.

But it is the task before us Christians today to reestablish our Biblical foundations, especially here in America, which was given a government founded directly on Biblical principles. Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution could not have been written by any other than a Biblically believing people. And it never was. Secular and pagan people do not think that way.

So the first step to recovery among Christians of our effectiveness in the public arena is for us as individuals, and as communities, to be truth-seekers. We tend to be position-defenders instead. We all have positions about the issues of life, and positions are important. But only truth-seeking can lead us to the true position. There is no other way.

That is what science is about. Science is the way of the cross for the intellect. A scientist gives up his “right” to be right, and lets the truth and the Lord of Truth speak for themselves. Only so can God give us the truth which will set us free. We must want the truth at any cost to ourselves. That can make truth very expensive.

Being a truth-seeker does not mean being an academic. It means simply what it says, being a seeker of truth. It begins, not in school, but in early childhood with that insatiable curiosity of small children. Honest curiosity is truth-seeking. “What is that, daddy?” “Why is this, mama?” They are exploring the world, and seeking revelation from those two most important people in their lives.

And equally important, this search for truth, this insatiable childhood curiosity – is the first step of faith. Here is my definition faith: “a trust that there is a truth, and that by honest examination of one’s experience, and the honest reasoning about that experience, one will be led to the truth.” That is what we must teach our curious children, and persons of all ages. That same faith principle is – the basic principle of science. Science is simply common sense paying attention to the details – details which most of us probably do not even notice. So the opposition between reason and revelation, between faith and science, evaporates if we look at the matter from God’s point of view. He created the whole cosmos, and put it together in a wonderfully unified package.

 

There are other things which must be accomplished in order to restore our Biblical civilization – briefly:

1. the Biblical worldview: The cosmos is created by an Intelligent Designer, who is therefore also sovereign over all things, no exceptions, including the public arena;

2. the Biblical Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. These first two must be reestablished in the Church before they can be effectively preached in America or anywhere else;

3. the Biblical government as given by God at our founding;

4. spiritual warfare must be readdressed, we have not outgrown the need for addressing matters of the occult;

5. parents must recover control of the education of their children because government control of education was right from the start in the early1800’s about control, not about education;

6. honor the right to life for all, no matter how small, in or out of the womb;

7. restore family and sexuality according to Biblical standards, reverse the Supreme Court;

8. Restore our moral consensus. God sets the moral tone for all things. Only a morally unified people can hold the forces of evil at bay. Our American moral consensus has been deliberately and systematically destroyed so as to divide and conquer us. It has succeeded beyond expectation. Only a strong moral consensus can unite a society against the forces of evil. And only God can supply that moral unity.

A Godless world has no way of unifying itself other than by coercion (to which now has been added mind-control) from the top of the power pyramid.

These are some of the major tasks which the Church faces today, but none of those things will be securely reestablished if we do not first honor what God has given us in the two edges of the Sword of the Spirit, reason and revelation welded together, the invincible weapon most feared by Satan and his human followers.

 

So how does our world compare with the world of the first Christians?

Every passage in the Bible takes for granted what secular and pagan societies firmly reject, namely that God is indeed the Creator out of nothing, and that He therefore owes nothing to anyone for the existence of the world. And every passage in the Bible takes for granted that God gives us our moral order, that His commands are not debatable, that they are just and righteous all together, and that we thus owe Him unconditional obedience.

That does not mean unquestioned obedience. God invites questions about His commands. We cannot change His commandments, but we can ask questions to understand them better. He wants us to bring our problems to Him. He tells us, “Come, let us reason together.” He knows that if we do that with an open, truth-seeking spirit, we will indeed find the truth in Him. How better to understand the laws than to have an honest conversation with the Law Maker Himself? Biblical faith is mostly just common sense applied to the spiritual life. We, not God, are the ones who make hard work of it.

 

So, back to our epistle and Gospel.

Peter says that we are to be of one mind. We are to think alike. We are to do that, not on a lockstep fashion, but as a result of honest truth-seeking. The unity will be organic, not forced, as it has become by our present government schooling system. Children are force-fed homosexuality, abortion, relative truth, promiscuity, and other delights. No real discussion allowed. The evidence is the results all around us.

Education is about the mind, government is about control. So, government in education will sooner or later become mind-control. And that will destroy the freemarket of ideas upon which both science and any free society are based. We have long ago lost our freemarket of ideas (that is another story...). But the Holy Spirit and honest science both lead to that honest search for truth. The rise of science was indeed a work among Christians of the Holy Spirit. And still is, though most Christians do not know that. We need to tell them. Most of all we need to tell our children.

Peter tells us to radically change our normal attitude of self-defense, that we are to have mutual compassion, to love our brothers and sisters, to not return evil for evil, but to bless rather than curse. And in doing so, we will ourselves inherit a blessing.

That blessing is the Kingdom. When we disobey God, when we try to be independent and run our own lives, we will become focused on producing for ourselves good feelings, feelings of power, pride, and pleasure. But such good feelings do not persist, and must be regenerated by more and more of what produces them. We become addicted to that which gives us good feelings, which is to say, we worship that object. Sex, money, power, fame becomes our god – exactly as described in Romans 1:18 ff.

On the other hand, when we obey God, when we do what He asks, we focus on building good relationships. Relationships become the goal of our lives. That is the meaning of the two Great Commandments, which tell us to love our neighbors. Good, stable relationships then give us good feelings which endure and sustain us.

So, if we focus on good feelings, that will destroy both our relationships and our good feelings. If we focus on good relationships, that will stabilize our relationships which then stabilizes our feelings as well. God knows how to make the world work well, we do not.

That is why Peter can realistically say, “But and if ye suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” We will suffer because of our Supreme Court decision.

There are times when relationship building can be very painful. If our goal is immediate good feelings, we retreat and put up walls. But if we persist in a Godly way, we will come out right. The Way of the Cross is that path of relationship-building which can lead through sloughs of despond, robbers on the road, faithless friends, or worse. But because our primary relationship, that upon which we rest our very being, means standing upon the Hand of God, standing where we can hear His Voice, and thus we are protected. We can be hurt, but not damaged. Or, as St. Paul says in 2 Cor. 6:9, “As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed...”

The Church today and the World today are not significantly different from the world and Church 2100 years ago. We are still just as fallen as then, and in the West, maybe descending into a black hole of political and economic chaos.

The Lord our God gave us the most deliberately formed Biblical nation and government other than Israel itself, which then became the most rich and powerful nation ever seen. But we Christians, just like the Hebrews, got fat and sassy, and began to believe that we did it by our own strong right arm. We became secularized and paganized. We sowed the wind, and now reap the whirlwind.

But God has not fallen off His throne. If we learn to suffer for righteousness sake, as Peter says, we will win through the struggle and again restore a Godly Church and then a Godly government.

Little did Peter know what he was in for when he accepted the invitation from Jesus to follow Him. He fell down before Jesus at the sight of the draught of fish and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” But Peter did not know the half of how sinfully he would behave. Yet Jesus chose him to be His disciple and then His apostle. We can all take hope. We have a frightening future ahead of us, but in Christ, like Peter and Paul and thousands of other Christians, we have a hope which no one can snatch from us, a security and a safety which no power on earth can touch. Nothing can push us off the Hand of God, nothing can shut down the Voice of God who calls us and leads us down the path to the Kingdom.

In light of our present situation, let us pray together the Collect for today:
BCP page (216 in REC BCP)

Grant, O Lord, we beseech Thee, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by Thy governance, that Thy Church may joyfully serve Thee in all Godly quietness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Sermon not finished til discussed)

 

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Date Posted - 01/21/2013   -   Date Last Edited - 09/22/2013